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LAYOFFS

Maker of electric cars lays off workers

DOVER, Del. — Fisker Automotive, a maker of electric cars that received a half-billion-dollar loan from the federal government and millions more from Delaware economic development officials, says it has laid off workers in Delaware and California.

Fisker said Monday that it has laid off 26 workers at a former General Motors plant in Wilmington, Del., that is being retooled to make its Nina hybrid.

An additional 40 contractors and employees who were working on design and development of Fisker’s Karma luxury car in California also have been laid off.

The layoffs come as Fisker works to renegotiate its loan agreement with the Department of Energy. The agency is withholding loans for the Nina project because Fisker missed certain sales and development milestones for the Karma.

GAY RIGHTS

Goldman Sachs executive backs gay marriage

NEW YORK — Top Goldman Sachs executive Lloyd Blankfein has made a rare foray into one of America’s most controversial political debates, releasing an advertisement Monday backing same-sex marriage.

“America’s corporations learned long ago that equality is just good business, and is the right thing to do,” Mr. Blankfein said in a video spot for the Human Rights Campaign, which works for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.

“Join me and a majority of Americans who support marriage equality,” said Mr. Blankfein, who came under intense scrutiny for his firm’s role in the 2008 financial crisis.

The Human Rights Campaign described Mr. Blankfein as a “key business ally in the campaign to win marriage equality.”

“America’s companies and executives like Goldman Sachs and Lloyd Blankfein have made equality for LGBT people a top priority,” said HRC president Joe Solmonese.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

Smith & Nephew to pay $22.2M in U.S. settlements

British orthopedics maker Smith & Nephew has agreed to pay $22.2 million to settle U.S. criminal and civil allegations that it bribed doctors employed by the Greek government for more than a decade to win business, U.S. authorities said Monday.

Smith & Nephew’s agreements with the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are the government’s latest action stemming from its investigation into bribery by medical-device companies of doctors employed by governments overseas.

In a similar case last April, health care giant Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay $70 million to settle civil and criminal charges of bribing doctors in Europe and paying kickbacks to the Iraqi government to obtain business.

Under the new agreements, parent company Smith & Nephew PLC is paying $5.4 million in restitution and interest to settle the SEC’s civil charges. Its U.S. subsidiary, Smith & Nephew Inc., based in Memphis, Tenn., is paying a $16.8 million criminal fine in an agreement with the Justice Department.

GREECE

IMF: Country needs to cut salaries to compete

The International Monetary Fund’s chief economist said Monday that Greece needs to cut wages to boost competitiveness and pull the country out of its economic quagmire.

Greece “needs a dramatic decrease in its debt. That’s the subject of negotiations,” said Olivier Blanchard. “But that’s only half of what it needs, and maybe in a way it’s the easier half.

“The other half is competitiveness … Either you basically increase productivity growth a lot and quickly, and you keep wage growth moderate, or you decrease wages,” he said.

Mr. Blanchard spoke in Washington at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace as Greece remained locked in talks with private creditors over writing off a large portion of its debt, in hopes that it would be able to avoid defaulting.

If a deal is struck, the IMF is expected to join with the European Union in offering Greece more than $171 billion in new bailout financing - earlier estimated at $170 billion, though with stringent conditions for economic reforms.

Mr. Blanchard acknowledged that reforms would not be fast enough to right the economy, and that a push for boosting competitiveness vis-a-vis the rest of the eurozone would be essential.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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